Many people may not realize the level of rigor it takes to go all the way through the program at Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels and actually become a graduate family.
Let’s walk through the process to see why this program is not for everyone.
First things first. We vet all of our families. We do not accept single people or couples without children. You must have children to be accepted.
We also do background checks and screen for drug use. We talk to the candidates to make sure they understand what we are about and what we expect. While we do offer shelter, our end goal is to “teach a man to fish” rather than just hand out fish all day.
Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day.
Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime
Our goal is for all of our families to reach sustained independence. However, most if not all of our families come to us experiencing some level of crisis. When a person is in crisis, all of that person’s mental energy goes toward survival. It is something we call “crisis brain.”
When a person has a “crisis brain” it is not possible for that brain to switch gears. It is essentially stuck in survival mode. So, the first part of our program is essential to the success of the rest of the program, although it does look a lot like we are giving handouts. There is a bigger picture. What we are really doing is helping these moms and dads switch their brains out of crisis mode so that they have the available mental energy to figure out life.
That is the next part of our program - figure out life.
We never tell anyone in our program what to do. Instead, we offer guidance. We help explain options. Often, we help put options in front of our families so that they can choose their way forward. We feel so strongly about holding a space for each person to make their own choice while offering support in managing the consequences of the choice.
Here is an example of what I mean.
Let’s say we have a single mom in our program who has always worked as a waitress. She comes to us with no job and two kids. Our first goal (after getting them stable and out of crisis brain) is to help her find work. She says she wants a job as a waitress because that is what she knows. `
We do not stand in her way, even though we have a feeling the income from her waitressing job is not going to be enough to cover her budget. She does have to have a job to stay in our program (it is one of our requirements).
So this mom takes a job waiting tables. It serves a purpose by allowing her to stay in our program and helps to get them a little savings. However, when we go to do her budget and look at the cost of living (apartment, groceries, bills), she realizes that she does not make enough money waiting tables to cover her expenses - even if she can find a reduced rent apartment, use food stamps for food, and keep her bills low.
It is so very important that she come to that conclusion on her own.
Now she has some choices. She can try to find different work. She can pursue some kind of training that would qualify her for a particular job. Or, if she is determined to keep waiting tables, she would have to figure out how to make her budget work (maybe changing the restaurant where she works to increase tips).
The point is, we never tell our families what to do. Instead, we offer support and guidance and help understanding finances and the bigger picture.
It takes a lot of commitment to become a graduate family. Many times these parents have to go way outside their comfort zone. It is hard. It can be uncomfortable. Sometimes they are learning things for the first time or facing deep embarrassment about their situation.
One recent and unofficial “test” of the resilience of our graduate families was the recent winter storm. It was tough. Would you believe that not one of our graduate families called us for help? They know they can. We were here ready to help. But they all managed with savings they had in place and the skills they needed to manage the crisis. We’d like to think that perhaps a few of those skills they picked up here.
Regardless, we are extremely proud of all of them and their hard work. We are also proud of our program that fosters such practical and sustainable independence.